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Egyptian army releases journalist accused of spreading 'false news'

Published 10/11/2015

Hossam Bahgat has been released by the Egyptian army (AP)
Hossam Bahgat has been released by the Egyptian army (AP)

The Egyptian army has released an investigative journalist and human rights advocate who had been held for spreading "false news".

Hossam Bahgat was detained on Sunday after being summoned to an intelligence building in Cairo.

His release was announced by Heba Morayef, associate director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which was founded by Mr Bahgat in 2002.

Mr Bahgat is one of Egypt's best-known rights advocates and was honoured with a Human Rights Watch Alison Des Forges Award in 2011.

The army had said he was referred to military trial for "compromising national security" and writing about the military without its written permission, while lawyers said he faced charges of spreading "false news".

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern over the detention on Monday, with his spokesman calling it "the latest of a series of detentions of human rights defenders and others that is profoundly worrying".

Egypt's foreign ministry denounced Mr Ban's concerns, saying his statement had "jumped to conclusions" over press freedoms while the investigation was clearly related to possible violations of the penal code.

The detention, which caused a wave of uproar on social media and among activists, is part of a sweeping crackdown on critical media launched in the aftermath of the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Lawyer Adel Ramadan has said military prosecutors asked Mr Bahgat in detail about an article he wrote last month.

The article described the conviction in August of a group of military officers on charges of conspiring with the banned Muslim Brotherhood to plot a coup against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

As military chief, Mr el-Sissi led Mr Morsi's overthrow during mass protests against his divisive rule, and was elected president last year.

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